There is a revolution brewing in the streets of Uruguay and it is thanks to President José Mujica and his efforts to go from complete prohibition to regulating the sale of recreational marijuana. Muijica, who chooses to live at his farm, as oppose to the lavish presidential palace and is known for donating about 80 to 90 percent of his salary to the poor, has already supervised the legalization of same-sex marriage and decriminalized abortion in his five-year term.
In Uruguay, marijuana reigns as one of the most widely used drugs. Mujica’s main concern is not the users, but instead, the drug dealers. On December 10, 2013, the law was approved. With the new law, Mujica plans to reduce drug-related violence and trafficking that comes with organized crimes. Companies will have the opportunity to possess a license to cultivate the plant (if they meet the requirements), but at a price: the government will determine price, quality, and maximum production value. They will also seek out contractors who will grow marijuana on government-owned fields that will be secured by state forces.
The legal purchase of marijuana will only be available to Uruguay’s citizens who are of 18 years of age and older. They will be able to purchase up to 40 grams of marijuana each month (with a 15 percent THC concentration). However, they will have to register in a national database before purchasing in order to track their consumptions (the purchase of marijuana will be prohibited to all foreign users and illegal to take across international borders).
But not everyone is parading the streets celebrating the legal recreational purchase and use of marijuana. With the country’s upcoming elections in October 2014, many are wondering if the new law, which has been delayed and is now set to take affect in 2015, will come to a sudden halt due to a difference of opinions.
Luis Lacalle Pou, presidential candidate and son of former Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle, has stated that he does not believe in the marijuana law. If his party wins, this could mean the end of a law that has yet to flourish. Regardless of who wins the next presidential election and take office in February 2015, Mujica is confident that the marijuana law will be implemented.
Uruguay will be the only country in the world with legal, regulated recreational marijuana sales. That’s not to say that it will not come with its challenges: because Uruguay is the first country to take such a major step with marijuana, the rest of the world will be steady scrutinizing on how legalization implementation unfurls in Uruguay. Other countries will look at them as either a prime example of legalization success or as a failed study. Only time will tell.
by Mitchelle Williams